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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Doha News Investigation: The Israeli company behind some of Qatar’s new scooters and its controversial CEO

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Fenix is the latest company to introduce e-scooters to Doha’s streets, however it is not your average micro-mobility provider. A Doha News Investigation reveals that its main investor is in fact an Israeli company whose founder has described Palestinians as “knife-wielding terrorists” and stated that “Qatar should be embargoed until they stop funding terror”.

It is the latest fad in transport, mini electric scooters stationed around Doha giving people the option to explore the city, or get from one place to another without getting stuck in traffic. But beyond the seamless and fun nature of these scooters is a disturbing story of an anti-Qatar and anti-Palestinian Israeli investor who’s behind one of the e-scooter providers.

Fenix is one of the newest companies to provide micro-mobility services in Qatar. Dozens of its yellow, purple and red scooters are now available across the capital, and although the business is based in the United Arab Emirates, its main investor is Israeli company Maniv Mobility. 

On November 18th Fenix’s co-founder Jaideep Dhanoa announced that his company had received a massive $3.8 million investment from the Israeli company.

“Today it is my great honour and privilege to announce @Fenix_MENA is launching in Abu Dhabi after receiving a US $3.8m investment led by Israel-based @manivmobility.”

Aside from being Maniv’s CEO and a tech investor, Michael Granoff, who also sits on the board of Fenix, is extremely vocal when it comes to politics, in particular issues related to Qatar. 

In 2014, during the initial GCC crisis, and three years before the illegal blockade – Granoff called for Qatar to be embargoed.

On several occasions the Israeli businessman accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, even claiming that Doha “funds ISIS”, without providing any evidence for the claims. 

But Granoff’s inflammatory comments are not limited to attacking Qatar. The staunch self-proclaimed zionist repeatedly uses the term “Palestinian terrorists” when referring to Palestinians.

In 2018, he even claimed that Ireland’s support for the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee programme was Dublin “paying terrorists”.

Another tweet from 2018 described unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza as “invading terrorists”. During those protests, more than 50 Palestinians, several of them children, were shot and killed by the Israeli army as they protested on the edge of the besieged strip. 

Numerous human rights organisations condemned Israel’s actions with Human Rights Watch [HRW] describing them as “apparent war crimes”.

According to Fenix’ co-founder and CEO, Jaideep Dhanoa, the company’s presence in Doha has been facilitated by Qatar’s Ministry of Transport [MOTC]. 

However it is not clear if authorities knew about the Israeli connection as the announcement of Maniv Mobility’s investment was made in November, several months after Fenix had secured its Qatar deal.

Doha News reached out to the ministry for reaction but has not yet received one. However, someone with knowledge of the agreements disclosed to Doha News that the company was given an approval for an initial three month trial phase.

When asked if Fenix had sought Israeli investment for political reasons following the ‘Abraham Accords’, its CEO Jaideep Dhanoa told Doha News that his company never intentionally targeted Israeli investors, adding, “as entrepreneurs we are looking for value adding investors…we never went looking for money from Israel, we were looking for the best investors that can support us.” 

However, just two weeks ago, Dhanoa participated in a conference aimed at encouraging greater cooperation between Emirati and Israeli tech companies.

“We are not very political, I think there is a lot of opportunity for collaboration and it is more about isolation versus integration. They’re very different approaches. When there is integration, it fosters a better understanding,” Dhanoa told Doha News.

Mohammed Nabulsi, a Palestinian student disagrees.

He told Doha News, “while Fenix and Maniv claim to be encouraging accessible mobility, millions of Palestinians find it almost impossible to move freely, either due to the illegal siege on Gaza or the dozens of checkpoints scattered across the occupied West Bank together with the separation wall.” 

Despite the claims of promoting peace, the e-scooter company’s investor and board member, Granoff, described Swedes as “imbeciles” simply for their government’s intention to recognise the state of Palestine, while also denying the existence of Palestine on the world map, stating that Palestinians never had their own country to begin with.

“Palestine was a British colony, a Province of the Ottoman Empire and the Roman one before that. Before that, it was a Jewish state. And is again,” said Granoff on Twitter in 2018.

Read also: Qatar’s Amir rules out normalisation with Israel as ‘mere illusion’

Maniv Mobility currently operates in Jaffa, where 70,000 of its inhabitants were forced to flee in 1948 when Zionist militia attacked villages across Palestine, resulting in the mass expulsion of Palestinians – the Nakba. Currently, Israeli settlers are now demolishing the only standing Muslim cemetery in Jaffa to illegally build houses over it.

The presence of an Israeli backed company in Doha who’s management has a history of repeatedly attacking Qatar and Palestinians has come as a surprise to many.

While neighbouring Manama and Abu Dhabi have normalised relations with Israel, Doha insists it has no intention to do the same until and unless the illegal occupation ends, assuring no real solution can come without fulfilling the rights of Palestinians.


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